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Rosenthal Wants Authorization To Bump Up Tax Relief Allocations For Seniors/Disabled

Published: February 23, 2019 at 07:00 am

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While staying within the amount budgeted, First Selectman Dan Rosenthal said he is planning to ask the Legislative Council to authorize increasing allocations for local seniors and disabled residents who qualify for rebates under Newtown’s current tax relief program.

“We’ve got just under $1.6 million budgeted, but in reviewing our allocations over the last few years, I saw that a significant portion of the benefit has been going unclaimed,” Mr Rosenthal told The Newtown Bee. “So I’ve prepared a request to proportionately increase the benefit reimbursement across the four tiers of the program to utilize the funding that has gone unused.”

The first selectman said he hopes to fast-track the proposed adjustments, as the application period for this year’s tax relief program begins March 1.

“The largest proportion of homes hit by the largest increases after our last revaluation tend to be smaller, older homes occupied by residents who might be able to take the most advantage of the benefit — they are likely to be the most in need of this benefit,” Mr Rosenthal said. “It may help proportionately offset the amount their taxes increased.”

Last year, he said, 671 residents qualified for the program. Mr Rosenthal said similarly to the current process, if the number of qualified applicants increases to the point where the full distribution cannot be made within budget across the four program tiers, pro rating of the distributions would begin with the highest earners to ensure the most needy receive the largest percentage — or the entire allocation — of individual benefits.

According to the Tax Collector’s Office, the current program provides benefits to residents age 65 and older and also for residents who are totally disabled. Applications are available between March 1 and May 15 of any given year.

To apply, the Tax Collector’s Office needs the application filled out and signed, along with copies of the signed Federal Income Tax return and a copy of a 1099 statement from Social Security. When considering an applicant for this benefit, all sources of income are taken into consideration; this includes, but is not limited to, interest bearing accounts, all Social Security income, wages, pensions and annuities, rental monies, etc.

The application must be signed by either the applicant or an individual who has Power of Attorney. Applicants need to be provided a copy of the Power of Attorney, and for proof of disability an Award Letter is required from Social Security the first year applying for the benefit.

The applicant must have resided in Newtown and paid real estate taxes for one year to qualify for the benefit, and delinquent taxes must be paid in full before qualifying for the benefit.

The property for which the taxpayer is claiming tax relief must be his/her legal domicile and occupied by that person for more than 183 days each year.

Assessed value on any qualifying property must be less than 200 percent of the median assessed value of real property in Newtown. The qualifying total asset value cannot be more than $900,000, excluding a primary legal residence and all tangible personal property contained therein.

*Applicants making under $45,000, are eligible for up to $2,525 off their local taxes (tier one);

*Those making between $45,001-$55,000, are eligible for up to $1,750 off local taxes (tier two);

*Those making between $55,001-$65,000, are eligible for up to $1,300 off local taxes (tier three); and

*Applicants making between $65,001-$70,000, are eligible for up to $800 off your taxes (tier four).

Applicants need only apply every two years unless there is a significant income change. After all benefits, qualifying homeowners would be required to pay 25 percent of their total tax amount.

Under the first selectman’s new proposal, the maximum tier one allocation would bump up to $2,904, tier two to $2,013, tier three to $1,495, and tier four to $920.

This year, 385 applicants qualified for tier one, 123 for tier two, 86 for tier three, and 28 for tier four. In addition, 49 qualified applicants who share ownership with someone who did not qualify for the program, received partial benefits totaling $63,501, the tax office said.

“My feeling is, if we budget $1.6 million, we should distribute $1.6 million,” Mr Rosenthal said. “If we get a rush of new applicants in the future who qualify, we can look at this again and either change the individual tier benefit amounts, or consider increasing the budget for the entire program.”

Additional benefits may be available — residents experiencing challenges paying local property taxes are encouraged to contact the Assessor’s Office at 203-270-4240.

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